Andrea Kramer and Alton Harris Release BREAKING THROUGH BIAS
"With the right encouragement and preparation, we believe women can claim their seats at the leadership table and speak with voices that will be heard." - Andrea S. Kramer & Alton B. Harris, Breaking Through Bias
More than fifty years after the start of the modern Women's Movement, women in the United States are still not "making it" in traditionally male careers. Women start their careers in numbers comparable to men but as they move up the career ladder, they are severely underrepresented at every level, with the disparity greatest at the most senior levels. Moreover, women very often end their careers earlier than men, having achieved substantially less status, lower compensation, and less satisfaction than their male counterparts.
In BREAKING THROUGH BIAS: Communication Techniques for Women to Succeed at Work, (Bibliomotion, Inc.; Hardcover; May 17, 2016) Andrea S. Kramer and Alton B. Harris explain that this glaring disparity in women's and men's career achievements is not women's lack of ambition or confidence, their child care responsibilities, or even the policies and practices in most male dominated workplaces. Rather, it is society's pervasive stereotypes about women, men, work, leadership, and family, and the discriminatory biases that flow from them, that prevent women from overcoming serious obstacles to advance in their careers.
"If women are going to advance as they aspire to, then they cannot passively accept the current gender-skewed state of affairs," Kramer writes. "Women need to recognize and purposefully counter the gender stereotypes and biases present in many workplaces through nuanced and carefully honed communication techniques."
The core of the authors' approach involves a series of such communication techniques and attitudinal adjustments. One example is Attuned Gender Communication, a term coined by Kramer and Harris to describe the ability to communicate in ways that avoid, dispel, or overcome gender bias. This technique involves four pieces:
1. Cultivate the right attitudes for career success. This includes grit, a positive perspective on your abilities, a coping sense of humor, and a confident self-image.
2. Maintain high self-awareness by observing how other people react to you in different contexts.
3. Commit to impression management by making sure that the impressions you make put the spotlight on your most appropriate and effective qualities for that particular situation.
4. Communicate to maintain the impressions you make through both verbal and nonverbal communication management, including tone, facial expressions, body language, and more.
BREAKING THROUGH BIAS makes clear that women have within their own power the ability to avoid or overcome these stereotype-driven obstacles to achieve career success. Kramer and Harris argue strongly that women do not need compromise their authentic selves, act more like men, or wait for systematic change in order to achieve success. They do, however, need to be attuned to the negative gender stereotypes that surround them; anticipate the biases these stereotypes foster; and manage the impressions they make to avoid or overcome these biases.
Kramer and Harris present practical, timely, effective, and original advice as to how women can communicate in ways that:
- Allow them to avoid or overcome discriminatory gender biases
- Present themselves as competent and confident leaders
- Promote themselves, their talents, and achievements effectively without stereotype backlash
- Strengthen and display the key attitudes necessary for career success
By writing together, Kramer and Harris also are able to offer on these critical issues the unique dual perspective of a successful woman and a successful man. While their advice is specifically addressed to talented, ambitious women, it is also aimed at men -particularly men in senior leadership positions who are in a position to help.
"Most senior men don't have a clue about how much harder it is for a woman to succeed in a career than it is for a man," Harris writes. "Too many of these men don't think about unconscious gender bias at all, or if they do, they don't take the issue sufficiently seriously."
This advice is based on Kramer's and Harris's extensive experience as business leaders, accomplished attorneys, and law school professors; their deep involvement in compensation, promotion, and hiring decisions; their mentoring and coaching of thousands of women; their more than thirty years of speaking, writing and studying gender communication; and their utilization of the latest social science research.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Andrea S. Kramer ("Andie") and Alton B. Harris ("Al") are married, have a daughter in medical school, and are former law partners. They have both served in senior management positions and have in-depth experience with all aspects of personnel management including recruiting, hiring and firing, individual and team supervision, compensation, and promotion. They have co-written more than thirty professional and gender-related articles and book chapters, and they have collaborated in mentoring women in a variety of positions and fields and speaking to business and professional groups about gender bias.
Andie is a partner in the international law firm McDermott Will & Emery LLP, where she heads the firm's Financial Products, Trading & Derivatives Group. She is a nationally recognized authority on gender communication, having mentored thousands of women and written many articles on the subject, including co-authoring the American Bar Association's guide, "What You Need to Know About Negotiating Compensation." Andie co-founded the Women's Leadership and Mentoring Alliance (WLMA) and currently serves as the organization's board chair. She was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women Lawyers in America by the National Law Journal and received the prestigious Gender Diversity Lawyer of 2014 award from ChambersUSA. She is Chair Emerita of the Chicago Foundation for Women.
Al was a founding partner of the Chicago law firm Ungaretti & Harris, now part of Nixon Peabody LLP. At Ungaretti and Harris, Al served at various times as managing partner, executive and compensation committee member, and head of the Corporate and Securities Practice Group. He is an adjunct professor of law at Northwestern University School of Law, and he sits on the board of directors of a billion-dollar technology corporation. Al has served as mentor, coach, and counselor to many successful businesswomen and recently wrote with Andie, "Taking Control: Women, Gender Stereotypes, and Impression Management."
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHORS
Q: What did you hope to accomplish by writing this book?
A: In Breaking Through Bias we have two fundamental objectives. The first is to convince
women that despite the gender biases they face in their careers, they can succeed without waiting for the world or their workplaces to become more gender neutral. And the second is to give women the tools - information and communication techniques - they can use to do precisely that: succeed in the face of gender discrimination.
Breaking Through Bias is fundamentally different from other advice books because we explicitly identify gender stereotypes and the biases that flow from them as the primary reason for the glaring gap in women's and men's career achievements. We want women and men to be aware of these stereotypes, understand how they operate to slow or block women's career advancement, and learn how to avoid or overcome these stereotypes. By writing together, we believe we have offered women truly unique, helpful, and immediately actionable advice.
Q: In Chapter 3, you stress the importance of "impression management." How should a woman manage the impressions she makes to play a leadership role in her organization?
A: Women in traditionally male careers - lawyers, doctors, tech entrepreneurs, fighter pilots, just about all high status high financially rewarded careers - face negative stereotypes about women, family, job commitment, and leadership. The traditional female stereotype is that a woman just doesn't have the right characteristics to be an effective leader. On the other hand, if she violates these traditional stereotypes and displays the characteristics of a leader, there is likely to be a backlash against her: something is wrong with her; she is not a nice person; she is a bitch; she is a bad mother; and she is certainly not feminine.
So, for a woman to effectively manage the impressions other people have of her, she needs to overcome this double bind, or what we call the Goldilocks Dilemma. This involves a series of steps.
First, she need to monitor the conversations she has with herself to be positive and supportive. Second, she needs to learn how to identify the impressions she is making on other people and know when she needs to "dial it up" - to be more assertive and tough - and when to "dial it down" - to be more supportive and inclusive.
When she can do these two things, there are four more things she needs to do:
1. Seeking out challenging projects and opportunities, not hanging back because these projects and opportunities are outside of her comfort zone or involve long hours or travel; speaking up, not letting the men dominate the meetings and discussions.
2. Not providing too much information about her family responsibilities, her fears, her concerns. She does not need to say she is not available for a call at 2 p.m. because she has to take care of her kids, just that she would be happy to talk any time after 5:30.